I have a 3 year old daughter, a 5 year old son and a baby on the way but I have never had to deal with this before and I am very afraid of the habit that she might get by doing this. I try to teach her that stealing is wrong, condoning the habit and punishing her by making her return what is was that she stole but society doesn't make this any better. I don't know what punishment to give to her because she just doesn't listen to me. When I make her return something other people offer to buy it for her and that is what makes it worse because they see it as cute but when you go into a staples and she steals a disposable polariod camera (valued at approxiamately $40.00) It gets old and very upsetting. My husband and I work hard to get the things that she needs and sometimes give her the things that she wants when we can afford them but trying to explain to a 3 year old that we don't have the money to always give her the things that she wants is hard, so I find that she is now stealing other childrens toys and bringing them into the house without our knowledge. The only way that we know that she takes them is from our son. Can you please give me some advice on what to do with her. She's been doing this now for almost 2 months and we just can't figure out a solution. Thank you, Kelly and Daniel
Conscience and a sense of honesty develop gradually over the early years, and it's not really until the age of five to seven that this process includes an appreciation (in a limited way) of the needs of other people.
Children your daughter's age take things because they want them. They do not understand yet the concept of honesty. Do they realize what belongs to them and what does not? Yes. But do they understand that to take what does not belong to them is wrong? No. They are in the process of learning this. At the outset, they only appreciate that the parent does not approve of them taking things that aren't theirs. They do not understand the issue from an ethical perspective. They do not at all understand why it is wrong to take wjat is not theirs.
So, continue to set limits. Continue with your practice of returning what is not hers. Give her a time out when she takes something. Over time, she will learn about honesty and she will have more of an appreciation of others' needs. But such realization is not in the hands yet of a child so young. Also, do not permit others to reinforce her taking things by giving her any secondary gains. Politley refuse their gestuires, telling them that you are grateful for their patience and understanding, but that your daughter needs to experience disapproval for taking things, not reward for taking things.
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